Creating Art

I have always been interested in doing art. Anything from painting miniatures, drawing, making websites, writing stories and running tabletop roleplaying games. I have also always been incredibly self conscious (except maybe the website and GM thing) and reluctant to show anyone my art.

The last time I created visual artwork such as drawing, I was a teen to very early 20s. I would draw, mostly gaming characters or scenes, on very cheap art pads that cost way too much. I even won a trophy in high school for an anti-drug poster (it was 3 x 4 foot drawing of death, holding a staff sized needle and a list of cities on a gravestone). I even won a gift certificate for it to Black Angus (I gave that to my parents for their anniversary).

When I was 19, I got together with my hubby who is way more artistic then me. He has always encouraged me to draw, write stories, etc. I have on occasion bought an art tablet and tried to draw, but then quickly throw anything I did in the shredder. The website design and storytelling are the only things I kept up on. I always was hard on myself, especially when I saw the artwork Wolsey did. That being said, he was always supportive though and strove to get me to do more.

For the last few years I have really wanted to draw again. I tried an artpad, but that didn’t work out. Then I have played around with photoshop a bit with images that were able to be used by public. I played around with a few different things and I discovered I liked using 3d programs to create art. The fact you can create a character or scene in 3d, and then save it for future use really appealed to me.

I have considered doing a webcomic in the past, but the thought of drawing every single scene from scratch and making the characters look the same each time seemed daunting. It is why I played with photoshop for awhile, hoping maybe I could use that to cut the grind. I discovered though with the 3d programs that you can keep your assets, move them around, reskin them for different clothing, poses, etc and your initial time investment still remains. Making it easier to create scenes regularly involving the same characters. I think I like that idea.

So I have been scouting out the vast numbers of art programs. I was really surprised by it. Ranging from simple little things to huge programs that can match anything Pixar does. What really caught me off guard was the prices and what you get for them. It isn’t a straight, the more you pay the more you get. Some programs cost thousands of dollars while others are free, and can do the same things.

After a lot of looking I am focusing on three different programs. The base program for of them come free, but have various learning curves. All three use the same vein of theory though, so skills learned with one will help with the others.

DAZ3D, a free 3d art program that you can buy (or create with other tools) assets, move them around, reskin them, make them look nice and then render them into images. At first I wasn’t so sure about it because a lot of the art I have seen isn’t the level I want to get, so I didn’t think I would get what I wanted out of it. However, after looking at what people have done, I am wrong, it is a very powerful system.

3D Art by BlackTalonArts in Jun 4, 2017
SK-Style Stop War 3D Art by SK-Style on May 29, 2016

Yes those are both created in DAZ3D

Poser is similar to DAZ with a few more bells and whistles. This costs a good bit more money if you want the pro version (but you can do more with it). I figure if I like DAZ and the little investment I put into there, I might consider adding Poser to my portfolio. There was a 40% sale right now which is why i was considering it immediately, but there is Black Friday type sales coming up in a few months. If I continue with DAZ then maybe I will hit a sale and get it.

Blender, a full blown 3d  system that can render movies on PIXAR’s level. It is a completely free, open source software and I am blown away by what I have seen (some of the stuff I wouldn’t notice not being real).

Evening Drink by StealthWorks () Blender3D • Realism • posted on Feb 11, 2012

That being said, of course it is going to have the hardest learning curve of all of them. The advantage is its free, the community is very warm and welcoming and there are a LOT of tutorials for beginners. This is my ultimate end game thing I want to use. Like Maya or other programs on this level though, its not something you get as proficient as I want in a short time period.

I figure DAZ/Poser will work well for a helping me in the beginning. It is also easier to push something out that can then be imported into Blender to do more advanced things with. So for now I think I will play with DAZ and Blender, get some tutorials going and learn this. I figure I still have a good 30+ years before I die, maybe I can get good at it.

So you will be seeing probably some horrible artwork. I normally would hide things, but I found its easier for me to post things to my website then actually show people in real space. This will force me to get better, or forever live with the starting crap I do :). So expect to see me talking about tutorials, showing my art, and maybe getting better at it.

Happy Anniversary, we miss you.

I woke up a little confused this morning, dreams of my mom and dad. Then when I sat down I realized she had passed away a year ago today, on their 46th wedding anniversary (today would be their 47th anniversary). Of course it happened that way, my parents loved each other too much to go long without seeing one another. My mom liked holidays so this seems perfectly in her style to pick one of her favorite holidays to pass.

She didn’t do well after my dad passed away in February of 2016. She was lonely a lot, and I couldn’t be with her daily (but at least weekly I was). I did call her multiple times a day, every day and she seemed buoyed by it. Then my brother stayed with her. She tried hard to keep things going, but in the end her body couldn’t hold up to her grief.

Although she was incredibly brave, and remarkably at peace as things failed her. She didn’t want to be here anymore. As her heart was giving out, we talked with her and she went into hospice. By this time we were driving up daily to see her. So many things happened I will talk about later. I remember her asking me for the days in hospice what day it was. She wanted to make it so badly to their anniversary. It was important to her.

I kept telling her it wasn’t “today” yet. Eventually that day did come, no matter how much I wished it wouldn’t. Their anniversary arrived quietly on a hot summer day, and as we went up to see her in the hospice house I knew it would be for the last time.

We arrived there, met with family, drama and a desire that I could whisk her away somewhere she could get true peace. We sat with her for hours, she was slowly fading, but would occasionally stir and say something garbled.

I was holding her hand most of the day, she was less responsive then the previous days. I leaned over and whispered to her that it was ok, today was her anniversary she had been waiting for and it was ok to go. She was mostly unconscious but she still squeezed my hand.

We stayed a few more hours, and I thought I had been wrong. Not more than 30 minutes later, while we were still driving through Mount Vernon on our way home, I got a call from my sister. She had passed away. I was numb for the rest of the car ride, but that will be talked about in a future post (along with everything else that happened around her passing).

I love you mom. I still miss you and I hope you are in a better place. Even with all the issues our family had, I am grateful you were my mother. I know you loved all of us deeply.

Mom in 1970
Mom in 2016

It is funny, I still remember you more towards the way you looked in the 1970s.

Oh, and my mom was a stickler about holidays, ALL OF THE HOLIDAYS, so I know she expects me to wish her and my dad a happy anniversary, 47 years ago today. So HAPPY 47th ANNIVERSARY MOM AND DAD!

From Parents Photo Album

I love you, just wanted you to know that we love you, and we miss you and dad.

Holiday Calls

Warning: Stream of consciousness writing.

When I was younger, the 4th of July was a lot of fun. As a kid, my dad would take the family outside of the apartment, sometimes the parking lot, sometimes the park across the fence, and light off fireworks. It was a fantastic time for us kids.

When I got older, my parents drank more, but we still usually enjoyed the 4th. As I became a teenager though I began to like it less. Eventually I moved out and ended up with Wolsey. We did the firework thing, bottle rocket wars, etc when we got together, but as the years progressed that became less fun. Nowadays we don’t do much for the holiday, except get home early enough to comfort our animals as others light fireworks.

The only thing that was sure nowadays was a call from my mom wishing me happy Fourth of July. She hadn’t missed any holiday in 25 years. For her, every holiday was sacred and worthy of a call to me. She even did this on Arbor Day… who the hell even knows what Arbor Day is?

Back to yesterday, it went really well, we hung out Torie, went to lunch, came home in time to avoid the crowds. But something had been bothering me all day, something that I would almost catch out of the corner of my memory. I couldn’t come up with what it was at the time until later in the afternoon.

It dawned on me that this was the first 4th of July that my mom hadn’t called to wish me a happy holiday. I realized that had been bothering me since about noon. While this is probably just a sad memory, I suspect part of what is bothering me is that it is the anniversary of her passing will be in three weeks.

I guess this is just a long-winded way to say I miss those stupid holiday calls. I am not looking forward to New Year’s Eve.

Anxiety about nothing

The last few weeks I have been scanning my parents photo albums. After my dad passed I started the project, and did several of them before my mom passed five months later. At that point I grabbed all of the photo albums I could out of their house so I could scan the remaining photos.

Fast forward almost a year and I spent the last two weeks scanning the remaining 7 albums (for a total of 13 albums plus about 220 free floating photos). The ended up with me having about 2,600 photos. With many duplicates in various conditions. Because there was so many albums I didn’t want to sort first, so I just scanned everything.

Currently I am now trying to determine what to do with those photos. The photos were incredibly important to my family growing up. We were homeless (as in living in a car, in a tent and even under plastic over a picnic table) for years and yet we somehow kept the photo albums (with few losses). We lost everything else we ever owned (other than maybe a couple of Christmas decorations that were important…) ya not sure why that now but it seemed logical growing up.

Started in the park like this

I know I will keep a copy of all the photos put away. I will send a copy of them to each of my siblings and the one niece who wants them. But I am not sure what to do with my non-backup copy, the one that I will use.

I realize the first idea is why not keep them? After all, they all easily fit on my phone with everything else, let alone the computer. However there are a lot of photos that have no meaning to me in themselves. They are random landscapes I don’t remember (probably taken my dad in the last forty years randomly), people I never met, and places I don’t recognize. Meaning they don’t really have a place with me.

I am really trying to keep my belongings minimal, to what is important. I know logically the 2,600 photos from there, plus an additional 3,000 photos I have on my computer (and stacks and stacks of photos the hubby and I took the first 15 years of marriage that we never put into computer (before digital cameras were a thing and always put off scanning them). Besides, I don’t know or recognize much of those photos.

Yet why do I feel like I am committing some sort of atrocity by not keeping copies in my computer/phone (but they are in the backup)? It has bothered me a lot the last few days. I also realize I am probably bothered most by going through the photos and seeing my mom and dad and working through the grief still of their loss. It probably wasn’t something I was prepared for yet, but I want to make sure everything is scanned so an accident doesn’t happen and wipe out those photos.

So here I am, just sharing a pointless anxiety that has caused me to go without sleep. Even now writing about it I feel calmer, and more and more its ok to not keep pictures of random people I don’t know and have no relation to me.

 

 

Food Security and Emotional Issues

I have always had a weird love/hate relationship with food resulting in some issues. I do emotionally eat, counting calories freaks me out and I have the hardest time leaving food on the table.

I grew up extremely poor (living in a car poor). This meant from the age of 8 or 9 on we were on food stamps. Contrary to what the DSHS people said back then (and the conservatives) they do not give you enough food stamps to feed a family. Nowadays DSHS  just say its only supposed “augment” someone, not be the sole food support. That is all fine and good if you are a single or adult couple, but anyone who seriously thinks its ok to only “augment” feeding a child is full of shit.

We ate well at the beginning of the month (no, it wasn’t all steak and caviar, fuck you conservatives). By the middle of the month the food was running out and we were living off of food bank contributions. By the end of the month there was donating blood and whatever other ways to scrounge up the money. All of this meant I had stretch marks on my hips and belly.

Coming back from the food bank. I have learned since then how to photograph better.

You heard me right, as a teenager I was skinny, and the weight fluctuations between the beginning of the month and the end of the month left stretch marks on my sides and belly that were there until my early 20s. The girls I was intimate with were usually disturbed by it. Even Wolsey commented on it when we started dating. I didn’t understand that stretch marks weren’t normal. I had just assumed that was normal.

We might have lived in a car, but it was a stylish car.

Food was a big deal in my family. If there was a holiday, or if some emotional trauma occurred my parents would beg, borrow or sell things to buy us something special. On the super rare times, we went out to eat, we finished everything brought to us. Hell, we finished everything at home for the same reasons. You never walked away from your plate with any food on it.

Things have been weird now for 25 years. I have always been ok with food security since I moved in with my husband, I have been in a stable relationship and within a few years my stretch marks left. We have always made enough to cover our bills and groceries and this scarcity hasn’t been an issue.However, I still fight with the following:

  1. I literally have to force myself not to eat all my food on my plate, especially when I am in a restaurant. It freaks me out that it is a waste of money (which it isn’t, and I can afford easily anyways). The thing is I logically know this even if it bothers me a lot.
  2. I can afford to emotionally eat. While it was a great internal relief as a child/teen because it was a rare occurrence, nowadays if I am upset I crave sugar, especially something like jelly beans and licorice I can buy it at will (and I do some of the time).
  3. The worst part is counting calories. I don’t know why, but it makes everything else in my life just explode. I can follow a regimen, eat the same thing every day, but I then get compulsive in checking. Then I just get aggravated, then the hubby gets my venting. We have tried it off and on for years, but counting calories, and diets in general do not work for me. The panic attacks are not worth it. I still can’t tie out why this bothers me.

I thought I would just ramble about this because I am looking at working out more. I would like to build up my stamina (and hey, losing fat isn’t a bad thing). I know that diet is more effective, but I don’t see myself changing my eating habits by a lot. So, I guess I am just explaining why a diet isn’t part of my future conversations about working out. I will try and eat a bit better, but no calorie counting, or crazy (e.g. stupid) diets.

Today was a sharing day.

Assisting with class.

This week I have been assisting with a class on data analytics. So as not to bore you, that is just reviewing data given to you by who you are auditing, sifting through it and finding things they don’t want you to find. I am fairly good at it too.

The weird thing, after watching our teacher who is a great guy, and reading the rest of our agency’s policies, procedures, etc. I am probably the most qualified in the agency to do this. With a CS background (mostly theory), experience doing the actual data analytics with other agencies, and experience using SQL designing websites for businesses in the past I am fairly sure I understand the concepts, the needs, and the uses more than anyone in our federal agency.

The hubby comes in close behind, he has the theoretical knowledge, just not years experience with other agencies doing it. Even our experts aren’t as knowledgeable about how to implement it, that is the scary part.

That feels weird, and while it does mean I probably know a lot, it means our agency is about 15 years behind where they should be. They won’t buy the equipment, not even just extra power cords for our computers. I don’t know why I am expecting them to buy a hard drive, RAM or anything else we might need, just for every day use of the computers.  The agency doesn’t even wan’t to pay for more than 750gb hard drive for an office of 20+ auditors (hell I have a 5 terabyte drive for $100 at home).

This has resulted in a week of annoyance. Not the helping people with their classwork, but with how much we could do, but also how much we could save the taxpayers.

We are still waiting on the hubby hitting his five year mark so he can vest in a tiny retirement and then definitely I need to see about finding a job more satisfying. Don’t get me wrong the money is great, but it feels pretty empty.

Therapy

I have always known that I have issues. I am sure it stems back to my upbringing, genetics and experiences. I grew up in poverty, violence, and a scattering of some pretty incredible experiences. Combine this with my family’s mental health history including bipolar, PTSD, depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, crime, and self medicating.

I have had four different counselors in the last five years I have gone to. None of them have worked out. The first one could only see me ever 12 weeks or so, while she was great, it wasn’t enough to do anything for me.

The second counselor was of no use. They really weren’t interested in doing much but trying to get me to take meds, which by the way I have a bad reaction to (at least Setraline aka Zoloft). That counselor was done quickly, as was my use of the med.

The third counselor got fixated on my family and stories about my family. She was less interested in helping me and more about some weird desire to vicariously live through my experiences. My sessions made my anxiety and PTSD worse and that just didn’t work out in the end.

My most recent counselor I gave a try to was last year. A few months after my father’s death I went in and tried again. This time I figured I would just start with the grief counseling part. I went a couple of times, he seemed pretty good but was once again I think intimidated by my life story. I went to training for work for a couple of weeks and when I got back my counselor never responded to any of my calls for getting more appointments. I don’t know if maybe he moved on or if he is avoiding me, but I sort of gave up on that.

I am pretty much done with counselors I think. My goal now is to just try and write about my feelings. I have found that actually helps me more with my anxiety then most counselors do. This means you all may be subject to my ramblings. I will try and post a disclaimer or maybe tag it “therapy” when I start talking about how I feel. 🙂

 

My First Trip to Phoenix

The hubby thinks 4am is too early

We flew down last Sunday, at a very very early morning hour to Phoenix, Arizona. We started by leaving the house at 4am, much to Wolsey’s chagrin.

We arrived at the airport, with no caffeine in our system and with only an hour to wait until we fly out. Fortunately I went to the local Starbucks to get my caffeinated fix. Trust me, no one wants me uncaffienated.

We got down to Phoenix and for the first time ever I was in Arizona. I stepped off the plane and was hit by a wave of heat that was unexpected. While it was in the high 30s in Seattle, but they were having a heatwave in Phoenix and it was in the mid-90s and unlike Atlanta, it was a desert. The last time I had been in a place that warm and dry was when I was 15/16 and we were homeless as a family, living in a car and making Lake Tahoe our place (it was when we went down to Carson City/Reno).

Yes that is me on the left

We finally got to the hotel (a La Quinta which I have liked, not sure why my coworkers hate the chain), changed into short’s and decided we were hungry. There was Mimi’s Cafe just a block and a half up and we thought it would be a great place. There we ordered lunch (well actually I ordered some sort of specialized waffles).

It wasn’t bad at all, the prices were Seattle average (11-13 each). I probably wouldn’t recommend it for locals though, we didn’t realize that Seattle prices are high in Phoenix, and I wouldn’t recommend paying top dollar for a not top dollar place. The waitress was nice though, and we found out she had lived in Everett for six years.

We then  headed back to the hotel, where we promptly laid down and napped.

Sleeping prince/husband

We got up, decided we were still hungry (we hadn’t eaten large meals at Mimi’s) so we hit Red Robin and found the food to be extra greasy (unlike our normal Red Robins we live next too, oh and yes I realize in general the food is a bit greasy, but this was above and beyond).

Finally we just hid out in the hotel room, the temperature was spiking even hotter.

The next morning was pretty simple, we got some waffles from La Quinta’s breakfast bar then went to the doctor appointment (to read about it at https://accidentallygay.wordpress.com/?p=1057 ).

We then went to Tia Shorty’s and I had the absolute best tacos in my life. The shredded beef just melted in my mouth, the spices were wonderful and I am glad I ended my Arizona food sampling there as it left it on a really good note.

Tia Shorty’s, really good.

We then got back to the airport for a later then we like flight (didn’t leave until almost 7pm) and we got into town after 10pm. With the Lyft ride back to the house we were in bed by midnight.

Overall the trip was a stupendous success, not because we went and saw a bunch of things, but rather because Wolsey gets his surgery 14 months earlier then normal (end of May/beginning of June 2017). So this trip was fantastic!

If you want to go see the photo gallery from the trip, go here.

Dates

I was looking out the window tonight and was feeling a little maudlin, maybe even a little anxious. I didn’t understand why I was feeling that (well besides just getting back from training for two weeks and still working out the losses of last year). That is when I realized today is February first and it got me thinking about things, especially about dates.

Dates are a funny thing. I don’t mean holidays like Christmas, or dates like a person’s birthday, wedding or some other special occasion. I mean specific days of the month.

For me the first of the month has always been an important day. True, it is important to others so they can pay their rent, or to mark the passing of a new month, but for me, for so much of my life, it meant more than that.

Unless you grew up in absolute poverty like me you wouldn’t really understand. When your family’s entire ability to eat, sleep and have electricity rely on a specific date that the check would come, you developed coping habits. The 1st was something all the poor families around us sort of focused our attention on it. It was something to look forward to, almost some sort to “savior”. It was a time when things would be ok for a short while.

I remember growing up and being hungry at the end of the month. Watching my parents not eat for a week at a time and our electricity had been shut off, hoping for the check to come. Things were extreme enough that I had stretch marks on my abdomen because I gained and lost weight so much that lasted for years after I moved out. When Wolsey first dated me he would run his fingers along them, I think they bothered him.

The money showing up would be like a godsend, and for a few days at least you would eat food, the lights would be on and maybe you could go to a store.

It was also a time of anxiety. My parents were heavy alcoholics and the first of the month meant they would drink, which brought its own issues. I was fortunate, they would try to quit for weeks or months at a time, but alcoholism is very difficult and it would return. While I would hope for the first to come quickly, I also dreaded it.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t had stretch marks for a long time. I have eaten fairly well, even when Wolsey and I were poor. The only time we had a repeat of this was when Wolsey and I were going to school and we would wait for our quarterly student loans, then divide that money up and budget for the next three months.

However, even  for the last twenty years the first of the month still had a big meaning. My parents never got better financially on their own, by the time they had sobered up their bodies were too broken to work. We were able to step in and help, but I watched every month as they tried to keep things going with not enough social security and food stamps (no family of two can get by on $850 a month between the two, especially when rent itself was $675).

This meant Wolsey and I would help out at the end of the month. We went out of our way to not ever get paid back. We didn’t mind helping them, and the last thing we would want to do is make it harder for them by having them pay us on the first. But even up until last July, the 1st of the month carried a lot of meaning for my family, and in turn for me.

It has been weird the last six months since Mom passed. We have been able to focus on our own bills and for the first time ever in our relationship we didn’t have to consider my parents and how long until they got their check on the first. I know we are better off financially and worry wise now that we aren’t helping support them, but I still can’t stop from being maudlin occasionally, and even now, the first of the month is still an important date.

First two days in the SD

My first couple of days have gone really well in San Diego. I figured instead of doing a “daily” update that I would just update every couple of days. It really isn’t that exciting. The one thing of note, it is now Tuesday (start of Day 3) and I it has not gotten above 59 degrees, pouring down rain and cold (that 59 was only for a short while). I feel like I am in Seattle.

Day 1: This was probably the most interesting day so far. I got up early, hung out with the hubby until he dropped me off at 6:45am.

While I was waiting at the Alaskan Airlines terminal things got a little surreal. About 10 minutes after we were starting to board there was still no plane at the gate (I was sitting at the window right where it should be). We all assumed no big deal, it was probably late coming in. That is when they announced that “they couldn’t find the plane”. You heard that right, not that it was late, but that they couldn’t find it.

Nope, no sign of it.

After the initial murmurings happened from all of us customers they made a second announcement confirming “that the plane was not late, they still just haven’t found the plane.”

It turns out that the plane was one of several Alaska Airlines jets sitting on the tarmac overnight. It looks like someone forgot to bring it out in the morning. Talk about a surrealistic way to start your day.

Oh look, it was behind the flour.

The flight itself was pretty smooth, I definitely prefer the 2.5 hour flights as opposed to the 4.5-5 hour flights to Atlanta. Once we landed I successfully secured myself a rental car. I was about an hour behind, having arrived and secured my stuff at 2pm. I then decided to go visit the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego Harbor since check in wasn’t until 4pm. I will post about that separately as I have a lot of pictures I have to go through and I want to post.

USS Midway Museum

Finally I got to my room, dropped my stuff off and went to In-N-Out for attempt number two. I figured the place needed a second chance, since everyone has a bad day. I got there and ordered a regular cheeseburger without tomato.

In-N-Out menu!

Of course it came with tomato, so I had to pull tomato bits off of it, I am definitely not impressed with their ability to modify orders. The people ahead of me evidently got their order after me and went back up to yell at them for something. I ate the burger and found this burger a lot better than the Double Double I ordered in Los Angeles. Even so, I wouldn’t really put it above a good McDonald’s burger, and definitely above a Dick’s burger.

Just a meh.

I figure next time I will just go get two cheeseburgers from McDonalds for a little less than a single cheeseburger here and not be as disappointed. I then went by a grocery store on my way back to my room, worked a little then went to bed.

Day 2: Monday was less exciting. I woke up at 4am and starting working. Then around 7 I went to my Data Mining using Access class and it wasn’t bad. Honestly it is a helpful class, and I am not unhappy to get the info. Actually I am happy to get it, I learned some things already that will help with the “work session” I got for the SAS program last week.

We got out of class and I found Von’s, a grocery store that is evidently owned by Safeway, my Safeway card even worked so it wasn’t too bad. I then went by Carl’s Jr and was also disappointed.

So then I went back to my room, played around on my computer for an hour and a half and then fell asleep unexpectedly.

Thus ends Day 1 and Day 2.